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Pistons show some toughness (just a bit) against handsy Memphis Grizzlies

The Pistons have played hard this season. They’re simply not good enough to be competitive with most average or better teams in the league. I understand all this and it has been clear from the moment the season started the team would struggle. What I’ve been waiting for is that struggle to breed some anger. Finally, in the third quarter of Friday’s lost to Memphis, they played a little mad.

For most of the game, physical Memphis guards Mike Conley and Tony Allen clutched, grabbed, bumped and used every tool at their disposal to rattle Piston guards Brandon Knight and Ben Gordon. For most of the game, Marc Gasol beat on Greg Monroe every time he touched the ball in the post and frequently, Rudy Gay or Allen would trap him hard. For a while, the Pistons stood around expecting calls. When those calls didn’t come, the Pistons finally played with some toughness.

Lawrence Frank got his first technical foul of the season early. When Monroe got doubled in the post and no teammates moved to the ball to help him, Monroe screamed at them. When the Grizzlies started taking even more wild gambles at steals in the third quarter, Knight finally started putting it on the floor and driving it right past them. Tayshaun Prince, who has been mostly content to shoot jumpers this season, set up shop around the basket, grabbing a season high three offensive rebounds before the third quarter had even ended. He also absorbed contact and got to the line some (and he deserved to get to the line a couple more times for hard hits he took that resulted in no-calls), a rarity for him this season. Monroe struggled with his shot early, but made up for it by being all over the defensive glass, collecting 13 rebounds. None of these things contributed to a winning effort, obviously, but it was nice to see just a bit of a pulse.

Memphis is a much better team and the Pistons had some major defensive breakdowns in the first half that they couldn’t recover from. But it has been common to watch the Pistons this season get hit with a flurry by a team like Memphis, which the Pistons generally meet by clamming up and shooting jumpers. In the second half, for a few minutes at least (remember, this is a season of straw clutching), the Pistons looked like the team Frank wants them to be. They contested shots, they weren’t afraid to attack the paint even though they were paying for it and, most importantly, they reacted to Memphis pushing them around by pushing back some for a change. Young players usually have a hard time matching the physicality of good, tough teams like Memphis, and the Pistons certainly couldn’t do it over the course of the entire game, but I’ll take a few minutes of it at this point.

The infusion of physicality was short-lived and far from enough to have a chance to win, but when the Pistons play with intensity and toughness they played with in the second half, they’re a far more entertaining bunch to watch.

Daye’s climb back

A mix of injuries and poor play cost Austin Daye his rotation spot this season. His confidence has been non-existent, but teammates and coaches have been trying to rebuild him. Against Memphis, he got his first chance at extended minutes in quite a while. Results were mixed.

When he first checked into the game in the first half, he blocked a shot on defense, then came down on offense, immediately recognized a mismatch with Conley guarding him, called for it in the post and hit a nice turnaround bank shot over Conley. He looked confident, he understood and took advantage of a mismatch and, most importantly for that confidence, he hit a shot.

Then, though, he was one of two players who had a chance to stop the ball with time running down in the first quarter. He didn’t and Rudy Gay hit a three at the buzzer. In the second quarter, he was late on a rotation and completely missed another one of defense, resulting in two Memphis layups. He also missed another open 3-pointer and blew a layup. But, to Frank’s credit, he called a timeout after a flurry of bad plays and didn’t yank Daye, as has been the pattern for most of Daye’s career. Daye got 11 minutes in the first half, including the chance to go back out and atone for some mistakes, and five more in the second half. He got his shot going late (finishing 4-for-7) and he was more competitive than he’s looked in a while, getting to a couple loose balls in the second half (although he badly overthrew an outlet pass after getting to one of them) and not hanging his head and doing that weird clap thing he’s known for when he did make bad plays. That’s not much to get excited about, but it has to be baby steps with Daye. The Pistons could use his shooting and he really needs to show everyone he’s not as bad as he’s played so far this season. He has more to build on from this performance than any other he’s had this season.

Walker Russell Jr. is a NBA point guard

I loved watching Walker Russell Jr. play tonight. It’s probably just because he’s new, a good story and breaks some of the monotony of watching the same familiar faces get shredded every night, but Russell really has a skillset that should give him a spot on someone’s bench as a backup point guard.

He’s energetic and quick, he handled the ball well against a tough pressure defense and he was a willing passer. He only finished with one assist, but when you consider Daye missed a wide open three that Russell set up for him, Daye missed a layup when Russell found him wide open and Jason Maxiell fumbled a great pass that should’ve set him up for a dunk, it was easy to see Russell has the skillset to create shots for others with his speed and vision.

The Pistons’ backcourt is probably too crowded for him to have a long-term spot with the team, but if he can continue to show some things over the next few games, he might earn himself a look elsewhere if nothing else.

36 Comments

  • Jan 20, 201210:02 pm
    by D_S_V

    Reply

    (I know I already posted this on the other thread, but this must be recognized)

    Most interesting sequence of the game:
    The loose ball squabble with 40 seconds left between JJ and Josh Selby at halfcourt after (another) Pistons turnover. After JJ joined Selby on the floor, the ball caromed out to another Grizzly, meanwhile JJ and Selby (both lying on their back) had a momentary handfight that was quickly relieved by a ref yelling, “settle down guys!” culminating with JJ helping up Selby with a still grasped hand. And then about 20 seconds later Daye passed it (again) to the mysterious 6th Piston who plays from somewhere around the courtside seats.

    • Jan 20, 201210:06 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Haha, there were a ridiculous number of slap fights in this game. Memphis is the most grab assy team I’ve seen this season.

  • Jan 20, 201211:00 pm
    by Vince

    Reply

    There needs to be more consistency on foul calls, Pistons were cheated out of so many tonight its not even funny. Otherwise I gave up watching them after the first half, second was much better, I really like how Russel played, Daye seems to have found his stroke, JJ should be starting at PF, Refs were pretty bad, Stuckey should start at the 2, Macklin needs more playing time, why is Wilkins still suiting up for the Pistons?, either Maxiell or Wallace need to be put on the inactive list, we finally used the D-League in god knows how long, the number of fans at the Palace is ridiculous, that pretty much sums up what I thought of the game….

  • Jan 20, 201211:25 pm
    by gordbrown

    Reply

    It’s interesting to note that Russell could have had more assists if he had someone to pass the ball to. How many more assists would Stuckey and Monroe have but for Maxeill’s cake hands?

    • Jan 20, 201211:36 pm
      by Vince

      Reply

      It seems Kwame Brown rubbed off on Maxiell, Stone Hands and Cake Hands?

  • Jan 20, 201211:29 pm
    by Mark

    Reply

    I hate Maxiell. Why o why can’t Macklin be getting his minutes?????????

    • Jan 20, 201211:38 pm
      by Vince

      Reply

      Yeah I agree, can someone please provide some insight, in the minutes that Macklin was on the floor he looked very aware defensively and offensively and had that very nice assist in the last 2 minutes to JJ or was it Daye? Either way Macklin is a better prospect than Maxiell.

      • Jan 20, 201211:43 pm
        by Patrick Hayes

        Reply

        Maxiell is a highly paid veteran, Macklin is a rookie on a cheap contract. Sure, I’d rather see Macklin play, but the Pistons are bad and not only are they bad, they are saddled with a lot of dead money to unproductive players like Monsieur Maxiell. They have worse contracts to use the amnesty provision on next offseason (looking like a foregone conclusion that it will be Charlie V if they use it), so they can’t really use that route with Maxiell. Basically, the only thing they can do with him is continue playing him hoping that his conditioning improves and hoping that a big man needy contending team will fool itself into thinking Maxiell has something to offer them. They’ll give up at some point if he keeps playing horrible, but I would guess he’s going to get every opportunity to continue playing in the desperate hope that he can be moved for something, anything.

        • Jan 21, 201212:14 am
          by D_S_V

          Reply

          @PH/DF – I’m pretty sure one of you said you had a website that you trusted for team salary/individual contract information. If that is so, what was it?

          • Jan 21, 201212:35 am
            by Patrick Hayes

            Sham Sports: http://www.shamsports.com/content/pages/data/salaries/index.jsp

            He’s usually a bit more accurate than HoopsHype’s salary data.

          • Jan 21, 20129:27 am
            by Steve K

            Ooff. Looking at that salary information is worse than depressing.

            They’re getting the vast majority of their production from just $26M of the $66M team payroll. That’s $40M of dead weight (which includes, somewhat arguably, Ben Gordon).  And it doesn’t ease up next year.

            This is sorta reminiscent of the Matt Millen situation, late in his Lion career. You knew he was terrible, but you didn’t realize how historically bad he truly was until the dust settled. Joe D’s crafted a historically bad team here with no hope for the foreseeable future. He should thank his lucky stars he’s got the amnesty to use!

            And speaking of the amnesty… I’m still in favor of amnestying Gordon, strictly due to the financial gain. Over the next two seasons, Gordon’s due $25M vs $16M. I’d rather have the (hopefully new) GM have that $9M extra under the cap… and just let Charlie V ride the pine.

  • Jan 21, 20127:34 am
    by Max

    Reply

    I think one reason Maxiell deserves to play is that he can block a shot and Monroe really needs work in that area even though he is turning into the franchise,  This team has a lot of trouble defending the rim these days.

  • Jan 21, 20127:43 am
    by Max

    Reply

    And guys….Frank is a new coach here who didn’t even have a real training camp.  Maxiell happens to be intriguing on some level, highlight dunks and blocks, and has put together above the rim stuff during his career whereas this team is almost all below the rim.
    Also, ss far as a remember, Maxiell has always gotten a lot of minutes when the Pistons were down players and while I can’t stand Charlie V and don’t really look forward to him playing, Maxiell is really just getting his minutes to this point and Macklin is a pretty unknown quantity.  I don’t know why I or anyone else should think he is even close to ready to contribute because I just don’t know and I don’t know how anyone else would have a better feeling about it than Frank and the coaching staff.  I would be happy to see him play but part of that is because it would be an indication Frank thinks he’s ready to play.

  • Jan 21, 201211:25 am
    by John V

    Reply

    I liked watching Russell, but he seemed to pass up a lot of open shots on the perimeter.

    • Jan 21, 201212:43 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      He’s always been a pass-first PG. He has good scoring numbers in the D-League, but he’s known for being able to create for others.

  • Jan 21, 201212:57 pm
    by Upper Michigan

    Reply

    Steve K,
    Good points and a good post.  $26 mm well spent and $40 mm spent on players who aren’t productive nor wanted by any other teams.  Worse, we are stuck with those bad contracts.
    When I look back where we were five years ago compared to Denver, and where we are now, it is so clear that Joe Dumars is the leading contender to receive another “Matt Millen – worst GM of the century” award. 

    Amazingly, Denver traded Carmello and Chauncy away and got better.  Detroit’s trades and free agent signings have made this team almost unwatchable.

    I am a 40 year fan of this team and I can suffer losses.  Years of them.  But, this situation is almost hopeless in my opinion.  How long will Gores suffer through attendance figures that are downright embarassing?  How long before our young players want to get out of the Palace?  And, just wait, Franks will soon become the fall guy just like the parade of coaches before him.

    This “shortened” season seems almost too long already.

     
     
     

    • Jan 21, 20123:14 pm
      by Steve K

      Reply

      Agreed. Anybody who has watched this season is likely used to losing by now. We know winning isn’t in the cards this year or next. But you need some semblance of hope. I know the smart teams build through drafts, but this roster has zero flexibility.

      Joe D needs to go for no other reason than to get someone in there with absolutely no loyalties.

  • Jan 21, 20122:10 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    HOLY SHIT Hayes!
     
    Just looked at that salary info. Was this your source for the info on Rip’s buyout?? I’d love to know the accuracy of this information. According to this, we’re paying him 8.5 million dollars THIS SEASON? And 6.5 next?? So buying out his contract saved us just four million dollars this season (which to this point has not represented any additional flexibility at all, since we’ve got more than that much room under the tax line and don’t figure to add a player via exception this season) and around three next season (which we could have traded away as partially guaranteed money if somebody wanted to shed some payroll, but are now stuck with). Jesus fucking Christ. It’s unconscionable.
     
    The closest to a silver lining here is that they’ve got Daye’s contract next season as being guaranteed, and I’ve heard multiple sources comment that the team has a fourth year option for him (which was my understanding of how rookie contracts work), but does this mean the team has already exercised the option?
     
    This is one of the most depressing cap structures I’ve ever seen, and the notion that anybody would let Dumars get away will saying, “We need to restock our talent base and that takes time,” is positively mind-boggling. We’re $8 million over the cap this season, and $5 million over the cap next season (with only Wallace/Wilkins cheap and productive contract coming off the books). Then the only money coming off the books aside from Macklin’s minimum salary are Bynum’s very reasonable contract and the absurdly high buyout we gave Rip for some stupid fucking reason. And every fucking penny on the books was put there by Joe. Give me a fucking break. Fuck this.

  • Jan 21, 20122:37 pm
    by tarsier

    Reply

    I think Maxiell’s putback dunk might be the first time the Pistons have been on the right side of a daily top ten play all season.

    • Jan 21, 20124:33 pm
      by Max

      Reply

      I don’t know why you guys are acting like such accountants and judging each contract as if the Pistons could ever benefit from being under the cap.  They have never done so before and probably never will.
      They barely have any large contracts on the entire roster–only Gordon qualifies in my mind and there is nothing wrong with a team’s production and future being tied to rookie contracts.  I also think by the way you guys judge contracts that you would consider over 90% of the players in the league to be overpaid.  There are a lot of realities about contracts that you guys just seem to ignore.
      Also, all this talk of being so many years away is nonsense.  They have at least two players in Monroe and Knight who will form the team’s core for many years and even championship team’s generally do not have more than 3 or 4 core players so this team is legitimately one great draft pick away from solidifying their nucleus and if they can get Davis and he is a franchise player then the Pistons will have a better 4-5 combo than nearly any team in the league next year.   People write things like they need 5 more draft picks but all I can say to that is that is they are right, then Monroe and Knight will have long ago been traded away in five years and Dumars would have failed to show patience.   When Chicago was trying to rebuild they kept making picks and flipping them for more picks as when Brand won ROY and was traded the following season for a draft pick.   Dumars is not going to do anything like that so I think the Pistons are actually pretty close because for all the talk of how bad their roster is; Monroe is going to be a top big man in the game and that is always enough to be decent no matter how the rest of the roster looks and the Pistons haven’t had a player with kind of impact since Grant Hill.
       

      • Jan 21, 20128:23 pm
        by Patrick Hayes

        Reply

        “I don’t know why you guys are acting like such accountants and judging each contract as if the Pistons could ever benefit from being under the cap.”

        Most teams that rebuild do so by getting under the cap. This allows them to either be players on the free agent market or take back more salary in a trade then they send out. Being under the cap in itself doesn’t do a lot, but it offers you much more flexibility when you are trying to add talent than being capped out to a 3-13 team does.

        Are you suggesting that paying above market value to limited veterans is the better way to go about rebuilding a roster?

        • Jan 21, 201211:37 pm
          by Max

          Reply

          I’m suggesting that the Pistons can benefit more by draft and trade then they can by free agency and that they probably should never pay a free agent more than the midlevel exception.
          Further, none of their contracts other than maybe BG or Charlie V would be that difficult to move as they have not paid anyone grossly above market value.
          If the average player in the league makes 5 million, what do you think the average starter makes?
          BG is obviously making above average money for a starter and Charlie V is obviously making above average money for a bench player but other than those two, who exactly is being overpaid to the extent that a team would blink over taking in their contract.
          Added to all of this, the Pistons can use the amnesty next summer, after making a draft pick and being able to take a hard look at BG and Charlie V so by next year, the Pistons could realistically only be carrying a single bad contract and a lot of national pundits said the Pistons paid below market value for Stuckey.
          If you want to say Tay is being overpaid, I would ask again, how many established veteran starters who are not operating under the auspices of a rookie contract and were retained by their own teams are making less than Prince?

  • Jan 21, 20126:17 pm
    by apa8ren9

    Reply

    I see it the same way Max.  if you can trade Gilbert Arenas then you can trade someone who makes less than Gilbert Arenas.  Its like there is absolutely no perspective of trying to put together a team.  Chicago never got it right until they got rose who was a franchise player.  To add to your point they also had Chandler and Curry at the same time and people thought that would work for them.  Detroit is in no worse shape than any of the bad teams of the past 20 – 30 years. Its not impossible. The bulk of the money is tied up for the next 2 years even with no trades made.  That means two lottery picks, plus Monroe and Knight.  Then you gain a TON  off flexibility and by that time you will know if you have a franchise player or core of players going forward.  Its not rocket science.  You have to have a floor/min amount spent on the salary cap.  Somebody has to get paid and you cannot have a team full of rookie contracts and D league players.  You have people getting paid like Joe Johnson and Rashard Lewis and we want to whine about Ben Gordon’s contract everyday?  Why are people acting like its the end of the world.    Especially when Detroit is one of the few teams that has made performed this miracle in the past.

  • Jan 21, 20126:24 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    Thank you, sir.

  • Jan 21, 20126:29 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    I’d like to add that I do not feel that Stuck needs to be upgraded and I think the roster just needs one great big man to pair with Monroe for the roster to be basically complete with a Knight, Stuckey, Prince/Jerebko, Monroe and draft pick x as a starting unit that can simply grow together.  They don’t need two more trips to the lottery but one if they get the right player and I think Davis would put us in the playoffs next year if we can get him.

    • Jan 21, 20128:24 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      “I think the roster just needs one great big man”

      One great big man would make a lot of bad or below average teams into good teams. How many great big men do you see hanging around that are available? They don’t grow on trees.

  • Jan 21, 20126:36 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    BTW:  If the Pistons do indeed get a franchise center in the draft and if Knight can surpass Prince as a player by next season, then it easy to envision Prince once again being the team’s fifth best starter even if he maintains the level of play he has displayed throughout his career and in such a scenario he would revert to being an extremely valuable starter because he compares much better with the lower rung starters of the league than he does to the upper tier–during the past few years he has become underrated and under appreciated due to having to function as one of the team’s best starters.

    • Jan 21, 20128:25 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Yes, if every young player on the roster realizes his full potential and if the Pistons end up with a draft pick who is an immediate star, they will be a lot better team. No one denies this. The problem is it is leaving a lot up to fate. How many young players realize the full potential they come into the league with?

      • Jan 21, 201211:49 pm
        by Max

        Reply

        Monroe and Stuckey are already better in my mind and I don’t think it’s any big leap to think Knight will be better than Prince next year.  The longer odds regard the draft pick but the Pistons happen to be bad during a very good year to get exactly what they need so overall the odds really aren’t that long.  Most years, you can say you are one player away, but there does not exist the specter of players considered highly likely to be franchise players in the draft but this year is loaded.

  • Jan 21, 20126:51 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    Also, Maxiell is an average player receiving an average salary and the comments about his contract are simply ridiculous.  He is simply not making an amount of money that is significant by NBA standards and is certainly not making an amount that would scare off any team from trading for him if he was being included in a deal to make the numbers work as a throw-in.
    Further, a lot of people were very high on him at one time and I can’t recall anyone in the media or otherwise criticizing his deal on the day of signing when the contract actually looked like a bargain.   I’m always amazed by the number of national media people who reference how they were wrong in their belief that Maxiell would be an all-star–it had to be the highlights.

    • Jan 21, 20128:27 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      “Maxiell is an average player receiving an average salary”

      His salary wouldn’t be an issue if he were, in fact, an average player. He hasn’t been even an average player for about three seasons now. That’s why his contract and the contracts of others on the team are a problem. It’s not that they are paid outrageously by NBA standards. They are paid outrageously relative to their own production.

      Using Maxiell as an example, off the top of my head, I can name probably 15 big men who make the veteran’s minimum or close to it and are much, much more productive than him.

      • Jan 21, 201211:43 pm
        by Max

        Reply

        I don’t think coming up with a list of best bargains within a given year does much to address a player’s value who signed a long term contract.
        Maxiell had the best numbers of his career two seasons ago actually, had a great game tonight and I would only admit that he did have one sub-par disappointing season in his entire career and that was last year.
        He also happens to be the Pistons best above rim player in certain ways this season.

      • Jan 22, 20123:48 pm
        by frankie d

        Reply

        i’ll give you one player who makes a lot less and would be much more valuable.
        we saw him last night: craig smith.  10 points, 5 rebounds, shooting over .500, which he does every year.  he brings toughness, rebounding and low post scoring.  i’m sure he is sorry about jj’s busted lip.
        this guy has been out there for years as a free agent, he’s making less than a million dollars now, and he is a great example of a role player who get paid peanuts who can still add a lot to a team.

        • Jan 22, 20123:55 pm
          by frankie d

          Reply

          oh…smith makes less than a million dollars per year.

  • Jan 21, 201211:58 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    Last season was the only season of Maxiell’s career other than his rookie season when is PER was under 14 whereas league average is 15.
    His PER for his career is 14.2 which makes him almost exactly an average NBA player and 5 million was the average salary last year which is what he makes.

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